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Mayor Backs Independent Shops as Christmas Shopping Season Gets Under Way

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has thrown his support behind independent shops across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool as the Christmas shopping season gets under way.

To help connect independent retailers with potential customers Mayor Houchen has unveiled a new version of the Buy Local Tees Valley website, https://buylocal.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/,  following a complete redesign and overhaul. The new Christmas area has the opportunity for businesses to link directly to their websites, Instagram shopping, Etsy, Facebook or any other e-commerce platforms, display new imagery and ultimately promote any click-and-collect or delivery services their business offers.

Mayor Houchen and the Combined Authority established Buy Local Tees Valley in April during the first coronavirus lockdown to help support local companies by connecting firms that are still open, but may have been operating differently with local shoppers who wanted to support local independent businesses.

The Buy Local Tees Valley website was hugely popular with nearly 750 businesses signing up in just two weeks and 10,541 local people visiting the site so they could support local firms during the difficult lockdown months. Local people can use the service to search for some great inspiration and gift ideas, they can find everything from candles and cakes to furniture and hotel stays.

With the new coronavirus lockdown coinciding with the start of the Christmas shopping season the new Buy Local Tees Valley provides a virtual festive shop window to make it even more useful to local independent retailers with new categories and making it easier for shop owners to upload more product information and images.

Mayor Houchen said: “During the first coronavirus lockdown the Buy Local Tees Valley website was really useful for connecting our amazing independent retailers with local people who wanted to back them during a very difficult time. Now that we are heading into the Christmas shopping season services like Buy Local Tees Valley are more important than ever before.

“To support businesses during the crucial Christmas shopping season the overhauled Buy Local Tees Valley website can now be linked directly to a retailer’s websites, Instagram shopping, Etsy page, Facebook or any other e-commerce platforms.

“I know these are difficult times for everyone, but we will not let this virus hold us back. Whether it is the Welcome Back Fund that I launched to help our pubs, bars and restaurants safely reopen at the end of the first lockdown or my £1million Emergency Apprenticeship Fund designed to backed 100 apprentices, we’ve tried to do all we can to support firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool through the pandemic and this is just the latest step.”

One business owner who has been using Buy Local Tees Valley is Erin Joy Harper, 26. Erin owns Darlington’s Rejoy beauty salon and also mentors other businesses in the region.

She said: “I signed up to Buy Local during the first lockdown and it’s been a brilliant resource to let the public know we’re still up and running. I’m particularly excited for its Christmas-themed relaunch as we’ll be using it to promote our new 25 Reasons advent calendar.

“We’ve teamed up with House of Zana and SG Jewellery Designs to create a luxury handmade wall-hanging calendar. It features gifts and vouchers behind each door from 25 local beauty and fashion brands, many of which are independent, so we can get the word out about these brilliant Tees Valley businesses.

“Buy Local is another way for people to discover what’s still out there and support smaller retailers in the run-up to Christmas. We really stand for independent companies pulling together in the face of coronavirus, and helping each other get through it, so I’m telling all of those I work with to sign up!”